Appropriate Business Dinner Guest Etiquette

Is a client taking you to dinner?  Read this. . .

Just last month I had one of my seminar participants invited me for dinner. The invite made me squirm. This sort of outing is not something I’m giddily about, not because I don’t know how to mingle and navigate a meal. Rather, I’m more of an indoor person. Also, dining with a client is a business activity, and I need to project a professional image. So, I started thinking about what makes for a successful dinner guest.

There is a certain flamboyance associated with meeting over a meal, which can make us comfortable and relaxed to a point where we presume a more personal attitude with the person with whom we are sharing a meal. And that’s why I put down these rules of etiquette and polite behaviour that can help you dine professionally.

Prepare for the meeting. Before the meeting get to know more about your host. Look the individual up on social media sites such as LinkedIn to find out about his or her interests and achievements.

Use “safe” discussion. To ensure you have a secured conversation with your host, prepare materials on topics like optimistic business news, vacations, current situations in the country, traffic, general knowledge, travel, movies, music etc. But make sure to stay away from talking about politics, salaries or religion because your host may hold views that are seriously different from yours and this could open doors to harming your image. Also, comment on your host's outfit without discussing the price. Additionally, steer away from topics that border on sex.

Change the subject. If your host brings up a topic about sex, ignore the matter and start talking about something else. You could say something like “That reminds me; do you know that. . .

Be polite and powerful. If your host insists on talking about sex, you could say, assertively, “I am uncomfortable discussing this, thanks for your understanding.”

Know the meeting spot. Know the route to the place you’re meeting before the set date for the appointment, and leave in time to get there promptly.

Dress the part. Sexy is not corporate. So, choose a clothing style that presents you like high-level professionals. Don’t show off too much skin. Wear skirts that are knee-length or slightly above the top of your knees. If you’re a man, avoid opening your shirt halfway down to the chest or flying it. 

Give the host your full attention. Look at the host when you are having a conversation, and don’t let your eyes wander. Don’t keep checking your phone, and don’t text. Get rid of any distractions.

Arm yourself with basic dining manners. As a guest don’t be in charge. Let your host give you direction to make your order. Don’t eat too much. Don’t get drunk before or during the meal. My suggestion, order a nonalcoholic beverage. Don’t hold a fork like a dig, or a spoon like a shovel. Don’t talk with your mouth full. Don’t lick any of the utensils during the meal. Don’t wave your hands around with your utensils when you are talking so, the food on the utensils doesn’t go flying toward your host. Don’t use your finger to help push food onto your fork or spoon. Sometimes, it’s best to leave some bite to stray.

Paying the bill. As a guest, it is not your responsibility to pay the bill, and don’t make any comments about the cost of the bill, your host is paying.

Say “Thank you” to your host when the meeting comes to an end. You can also, at times, later send a “thank you” note to acknowledge your host’s kindness.

Applying all these etiquette rules makes it less likely that you will make fatal flaws and enable you to navigate a business meal with success.

And now to more success in your personal and business life,

Your friend & Coach
Damilola Ogunremi

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